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mentalman
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06 Nov 2010, 2:29 am

Hello WP users,

It's been many years (at least 5 or 6) since I last used WP to post or discuss things from my life, although I have browsed it occasionally to see what others are discussing. I think for the most part it was because I had developed the skills and tools needed to cope with my Asperger's and glide imperfectly through life. However, ever since the summer of 2010, I have been going through a series of life changes that have challenged me in so many ways that I'm feeling the need to at least pose some questions to the site to see whether what I am feeling or experience is unusual for someone my age (25 until May 2011) and get some feedback on some of your experiences with these challenges.

In order to explain the context of those changes, I need to tell a little about my life before summer 2010, which I will try to do briefly (sort of an oxymoron coming from an aspie). :?

I grew up in northwestern Montana in a loving family of four (mom, dad, and younger brother) who supported and sheltered me from many of life's worries, mostly to my benefit, but (as sometimes I wonder) perhaps to my chagrin too. From an early age, I was obsessed with computers, mapping, geography, and geographic information systems, and followed that path through my first few jobs and education. I was homeschooled from 7th grade until I enrolled in college because my parents were able to find mentors and teachers who could more effectively educate me than (at the time, late 1990s) the public school system could, although to this day I hold no disrespect for the role public education plays in US society or the value of public school educators. During that time, I pursued my passions/obsessions, recovered from the social traumas and bullying in elementary/middle school, developed social networking skills strictly for the adult world, what is commonly called "networking/career" skills - ability to build professional/personal adult relationships for work, community, and other assorted venues in the service of pursuing jobs and education (including enrolling in an online college certificate program at the age of 16). I had the time of my life, but sort of lived in a sheltered bliss as far as my personal/social life went and didn't "grow" in my ability to deal with people my own age.

Everything changed when I hit college in 2004, first for a two-year Associates in Computer Technology, and then went on for a Bachelor's in Geography in 2006. I had an amazing brain fart in the two-year program while simultaneously taking courses in public speaking, computer networking, and computer operating systems, that enabled me to develop a series of computer analogies that (to me) explained a great detail about how people and relationships worked (thinking in layers of communication, protocols). I also developed better time-management skills in order to deal with the massive increase in homework, projects, information learned, etc. However, it wasn't until 2006 and the start of my Bachelor's that I realized that I was lonely enough and had time enough to be concerned about dating or finding a girlfriend. My efforts in that area were largely unsuccessful (except for a few minor forays that failed due to mis-communication or incompatibilities) until I started using eHarmony in January 2009, which changed my life by allowing me to leverage my strengths (writing, data analysis [a.k.a. reading match profiles], and the structured communication process) rather than my weaknesses or dislikes (going to bars, courage to ask someone out, recognizing "cues" that girls were interested in me). I also started learning how to live independently through three consecutive internships in Washington, DC where I learned about living with roommates and keeping up an apartment and started to develop a sense of who I was, my career and life goals, an identity separate from my family and friends. I also started to appreciate having freedom for my own life, although I was still "sheltered" because I tended to gravitate towards and be blessed with co-workers, mentors, etc. who were similar in personality, values, etc. so that it was easy to "mimick" communication with them and get along just fine.

When my final internship ended in December 2009, I entered my first real period of becoming aware of the realities of life around me - the tough job market, the need to stay living with my parents to conserve money, the desire for a successful career, girlfriend (still no luck there)/wife and freedom to live apart...and the desire to become as independent an Aspie as I could. The opportunity to change all that came after three months of unemployment and restlessness in March when I was hired on with the federal government for a six month position at an office in a small town (population 3,300) in Northeastern Montana - so far out in the middle of nowhere that the Greyhound didn't service the area - only Amtrak and a small one-room airport).

During that summer I experienced the following challenges:
1) I realized that not every job was as perfect as all my previous internships, student jobs, etc. had been. As an example, I had to do work that often was boring, repetitive, and below my desired level of challenge and talent, and the stuff I wanted to do was not what I had been hired to do, or was further down the project line than where I was at the moment.
2) I discovered that not all co-workers and roommates were as nice or (naturally) understanding as those previous in my life. I experienced a co-worker who had a distinctly different set of values than I did, and when bored with work (which was often for the three-person team I was a part of) relieved the boredom by making a joke out of *everything*, including topics that I found rather offensive (e.g. joking about fat women, gay people, etc.). I had a roommate (the third link in the team as well) who was understanding of me in private (e.g. in the apartment), but in the workplace had no qualms about joining the other guy in the office).
3) I found a match on eHarmony who turned out to be the girl for me and starting pursuing a long-distance relationship with her (she lives in Kansas City, MO) via Skype, email, phone, texting, etc. and eventually flew down there to meet with her, her family, and friends, and hosted her up in Montana to meet my parents and introduce her to Glacier National Park (she'd never been to Montana before).

The good news is that the summer had a happy ending - I ended the job on a positive note after the temporary position ended due to lack funds to extend it, I don't work with those co-workers again, and I am now engaged to my gal down in Kansas City after five months of intense, joyful, and exciting dating. I plan to move there next week, find a job, and start a new life with her. No wedding date set for now because she's finishing graduate school and I just started it). The bad news (if one has to call it that) is that the new joys have brought on new challenges that at times make earlier challenges look like a piece of cake, from picking out an engagement ring and proposing, to learning how to love and communicate with her, getting to know her parents and relatives and balancing the politics of two family trees, etc.

The questions I have for the group are, for Aspies or NTs, single or married/committed, male or female as appropriate:

a) When you made large changes in your life, whether new job, engagement/marriage, etc. did you feel like you were almost starting over again with coping skills or your "model" of how you understood the world - perhaps redefining "theory of mind"? For example, I realized the communication skills I "thought" I had developed had to be re-built or developed to handle increased complexity. As a self-serving example, for me it didn't really "click" until my summer job that not every job is going to be exactly as you want it to be - as I had been blessed or just lucky with my previous internships and jobs before then.

b) For those of you that had close relationships with parents, did you struggle with balancing your desire for freedom, independence, and the joy of taking ownership of your life against the realization that your parents still had advice to offer and wisdom to make the journey smoother (even in ways that didn't make sense to you at times)?

c) For those in committed/married relationships, did it at times feel like when you moved from one stage of the relationship to the next, e.g. casual friends to dating, dating to engagement, engagement to marriage, etc. that new parts of the relationship and your partner were "unlocked" or revealed and you had to adjust to those changes?

d) Have you found that the complexity of life increases, rather than decreases, once you move into these different areas of life (careers, marriage, advanced education) and that while the joys and celebrations are ever more powerful and meaningful, the challenges and degree of difficulty with dealing with them as an Aspie or NT also increase?

Thanks for answers or feedback you can provide and I'm sorry it was such a long post. I tried to summarize as best I could, but I also wanted to include enough detail that you would be able to understand the context - I know as an Aspie I struggle with that daily.

--
mentalman



peterd
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06 Nov 2010, 3:26 am

There were times back there when I lived in a world crafted on the living rock of human knowledge and played my own role in god's creation, Since then, god's fallen prey to complexity - once occam's razor strikes there's no way back - and the aspergers diagnosis put paid to any small hopes that might have survived.

Logic survives. Observation, measurement and review are the only tools we have with which to search for a future. We should strive to gather information as we go and use it to guide our choices.

That didn't really help towards an answer, did it? Life presents sequence and combination of chaotically arranged challenges and we do our best to play them - perhaps the game's the thing?



Georgia
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06 Nov 2010, 8:52 am

peterd wrote:
... Life presents sequence and combination of chaotically arranged challenges and we do our best to play them - perhaps the game's the thing?


Well said



mentalman
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07 Nov 2010, 1:07 am

Peterd and Georgia, thank you for your responses. You are right that life is a gamble and that the fun is in playing the game, as long as you remain the logical observer and do not fall pray to the rules and dance of the game.

For even one who is logical can fall to a game of logic, such as gambling, because the desire to "win" the game and beat the logic outweighs the.....logic of maintaining your fiscal solvency. What a twisted game of logic this is. :)

Edit: Perhaps this was your whole point though....by trying to "win" the game..one fails to remain servant to cold logic without falling prey to the emotion of desire to "win"?? Did I get it right? Let me know.

Edit2: Peterd. I just read your blog from beginning to end. Your comment makes a lot more sense now.

Follow-up question: Do you believe that the amount of information one needs to collect, organize, examine, review, collate, and integrate to expand your picture/observation of what is - whether that is life, a relationship, a job environment, etc. - increases exponentially, logarithically, or otherwise in a non-linear fashion?

If so, what tools have you developed in order to increase your speed and capacity to collect, store, manage, and analyze all that information? I am curious as to your answer. :)


mentalman


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mentalman


Dear_one
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07 Nov 2010, 1:31 am

Every seven years or so, I've decided that my life made no sense, and started over, with even more things to avoid. Having some family support, etc, you can probably avoid serial disasters. I'm just compiling a list of things I wish I'd known in kindergarten, but back then, only a few researchers had a clue about how to articulate them. The latest revelation was that most people only aspire to the appearance of sensibility, and don't actually use logic at all. Instinct tells most people that very early - logic was very slow to see it.



peterd
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07 Nov 2010, 2:18 am

Quote:
Follow-up question: Do you believe that the amount of information one needs to collect, organize, examine, review, collate, and integrate to expand your picture/observation of what is - whether that is life, a relationship, a job environment, etc. - increases exponentially, logarithmically, or otherwise in a non-linear fashion?


Well, it certainly increases. The machinery though is more like recognizing duplications, using patterns where once one had ploughed through detail, and trusting the pictures that experience pops up for consideration - that is, the arrangement might grow more complex, or at least more deeply layered, but the amount of actual mental effort applied stays roughly constant. Even declines...

The only thing one really needs from such reflection is "What shall I do next?", and there aren't often many options to choose from there.

Mentalman: you read all that? might be the first...

Dear_one: I agree - having a properly functioning theory of mind seems to mean that actually thinking things through isn't often necessary